Without any fanfare or formal announcement, President Barack Obama made the decision to go “cold turkey” and fight one of his most serious addictions.
We’ve seen how the president can’t resist fatty, greasy foods despite his busybody wife telling everyone else what they should be eating. And the president’s attempts to kick the smoking habit have been well documented.
But very little has been made of perhaps the most embarrassing addiction from which the president is suffering; his inability to talk in public without his teleprompter.
Not talked about openly in polite society — and in newspapers and newsrooms — the president is now fighting his addiction to the teleprompter, swearing off using the device while employing handwritten notes instead.
President Obama is weaning himself off his teleprompter.
At recent campaign events in Pennsylvania, Virginia and again Monday in Ohio, Obama spoke to crowds in high school gymnasiums and at crowded outdoor events without his teleprompter, instead using written notes.
The difference is dramatic. Instead of turning in his characteristic manner from right to left and back again, reading from the two sloping, clear-plastic planes of his teleprompter, Obama has glanced down at pages in a binder on his podium.
Team Obama thinks the switch, or partial switch — the president is not giving up the teleprompter entirely — will help him better connect with voters.
Critics have mocked Obama’s routine use of the teleprompter, including in speeches to schoolchildren. And the new use of written notes appears intended to trade away the smooth, distant demeanor of teleprompter rhetoric for a little more immediacy and vigor. A senior administration official acknowledged the shift in the president’s style, saying Obama is speaking “more extemporaneously.”
But the senior official said the lack of teleprompters has “less to do with image and more to do with upping the tempo” at campaign events, while creating more unscripted moments.
Not using a teleprompter lets Obama be more spontaneous on the stump. Since making the shift, the president at times has ad-libbed remarks while playing off his supporters’ reactions, something that had been difficult with a teleprompter.
“It’s become a crutch,” Tobe Berkovitz, a professor of communications at Boston University who specializes in political communications, said in describing Obama’s use of the teleprompter.
“It seemed as though he couldn’t go anywhere without them, and it made him seem unconfident and robotic in dealing with real people out there,” Berkovitz said.
Rumor has it that the president will auction off the hand-written notes in order to raise funds for his campaign. But that’s just a rumor.
When asked how the president was holding up under the stress, a senior official who declined to be identified due to the silly nature of the story, said, “About as well as you might expect. He has his ups and downs, good days and bad days. Frankly, I think giving up smoking would be easier.”
Meanwhile, the Teleprompter is considering suing the administration for breach of contract and wrongful termination. The “Pro Line Stagepro Presidential Model” went on strike 3 years ago because of overwork and poor working conditions. “We thought we had a lifetime deal,” said the Teleprompter’s agent. “We’re examining all our options and we won’t take this unfair and illegal termination lying down — or standing up, as the case may be,” he added.
None of the president’s senior staff would go on record with their reactions to the president’s cold turkey initiative, but David Axelrod was seen being helped off stage when the president temporarily lost his place while reading his notes. A source close to Axelrod tried to minimize the incident, saying that the president’s chief political advisor was merely suffering from “indigestion” and was not nervous at all about the president going off-script and teleprompterless.